Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Living Post Stroke is NOT Easy

I received a disturbing email from my dearest, oldest friend recently. She's a stroke survivor too. Once again she was lamenting why hadn't her stroke killed her. Unlike many of us, she failed her competency test as part of the disability claim. Not badly, but enough that she lives with her daughter and her family. It also sped up her disability claim with positive results.

Now four years later, this couple has had a child and my friend has been given the role of nanny as well as grandmother. Such is the case in multi generational households. Although she loves the child dearly, my friend feels trapped and alone.

Now, I know this woman well. We've been friends for half a century. That's longer than all but one of my siblings. With me being the oldest of seven, that's saying something. My friend was seated firmly on the self pity pot. But she was reaching out to me. I could have answered her back coddling her to support my dear friend, or shake her up, and get her off the pot. Well, knowing me as you readers do, you know my choice. You can't love and support a longevity friend by not being honest. You don't help them that way.

So how do you loving pull someone else from the self pity pot? Treading on egg shells trying not to break them is one way. Or respond like a bull in a china shop and yank her off the pot. I'm guilty of this from time to time. My choice this time was the middle road., you use loving logic to pull them out of the gray and into the light. I start my response in a supportive way sprinkling in logic and self examples. Like when I was alone and fell and couldn't get up. How much better it is that I can holler and have someone else in the house. Just in case even though prestrokes, I never would have thought twice about living alone.

Yes, she is the full time nanny and grandmother to that precious little girl. But, she will mold this child into what she will become, instill her self value and worth. How wonderful and a huge trust and that honor is. She molding the next millennia.

But by the same token, she's not a slave either. It's not like she's destitute and living off their good graces. She bring in an income each month. Granted, she had some debt prior to her living with her daughter which has to be paid off. But, she's not a slave. She should have one day a week off from childcare duties to pursue her own interests and desires. She should be able to join a group of women that are around her same age or stroke survivors. Most of these are free. She lives in her state's capital so there should be ample choices.

She wasn't stuck at all. She just needed to be reminded of the opportunities still available to her. She needed to be reminded that even though she'd had a stroke, that she had value and her life wasn't totally over. Her job on this earth wasn't finished yet or her journey in it. The stroke was just a detour on the path she thought her life would take. The adventure and journey continues in spite of the detours.

Detours allow us to take stock on what we do have. They allow us a do over and start anew. While no one really likes detours, I say embrace the  detours. In detour you have a new set of eyes to notice what's around you. You're more attentive than just cruising through life where the common place is ignored. Enjoy the detours as part of your life because detours are inevitable.

I'm thankful in receiving  this email for more than helping a friend in need. It was a reminder to me of all the things I'd let slide without  noticing. I too had fallen into a stage where I was cruising through  my life with blinders on. I woke this morning with new eyes. See how the Lord works in my life through others? It was just as much a wake up call for me as her.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Changing Responsibilities

Today's post is about changing responsibilities after a stroke. If you are like me, you had help to delegate your "chores" to children, in laws/outlaws, or just general family just after my first strokes.  I know many out there in reader land who do not have this luxury.

I was luckier and unlucky in that respect. I was able to gradually able to rapidly slide back into my new old life. I was only in hospital and a recovery unit for 30 days. It wasn't enough time.

  • Offers of help/assistance only apply on the other person's schedule not yours for the most part. I sometimes had  to call 3 or 4 people just to make one doctor or therapy appointment. But at least I had that option. Others without this resource have to depend on medical transport.
  • This is only temporary. At best 1-6 months worth. After that, you become a burden to avoid. If I sound cynical, it's because I know human nature.
  • After those willingness to help folks are gone or sporadic at best, you are on your own. 
  • During this time you relinquish all control and choice to others. 
  •  You'll know when you assert yourself as a back seat driver that you want your choices heard. This is taken as being ungratefully by the people who are trying to help you. They will distance themselves from you as a result.
Now for some other things...
  • Shopping- when you send others to do your shopping for you, they spend more and pick up the wrong items. To go with them has a few obstacles. For me, this included finding someone to care for my terminally ill husband while I was gone. Then, there was the issue of my chronic fatigue after my strokes. An hour at physical therapy or shopping had me napping for an hour afterwards.
  •  Cooking- You might be lucky and have a daughter who brought over a plate of food each day, or have a neighbor bring over a container of chicken & dumplings.This is a challenge on a daily basis even for a professionally.trained chef such as myself. Your brain is sluggish. Meal planning is almost an impossible feat. Stouffers and frozen meals to the rescue. Nuke and it. But soon the repeated meals wear you down. How many times can you eat lasagna or Welsh rabbit in a week? You want to cook, or at least I did, but I could barely stand.
  • Cleaning- This can be very challenging without a dishwasher. I found that using a smaller sink. Sweeping is doable by holding the broomstick with your chin. The broomstick is also a great cane. Dustpans with a handle is an essential. Dusting, you can leans against the desk or furniture you are dusting. Laundry- I opted for a laundry service. For $0.75 a lb, they washed, dried and folded or hung your clothes. They even put it your car for you.
That pretty much covered the basics besides the self care. That's another open can of worms. I make
it sound so easy and it's not. But with each task you try and fail, or try and accomplish proves to yourself that you can do. Some parts of your life have taken a detour and gone walk about (God only knows when they will return). But even a baby step forward leads to confidence to take another.

 I challenge myself each and every day. Some mornings, it's a challenge to get out of bed, but I do it. That is an accomplishment to feel good about. To keep that victorious feeling going, I accept, even look for it, another challenge. Today for me is making a pharmacy run and go to Walmart for some items. I hate shopping at Walmart! Too big, too many people and a necessary trip. This is a major accomplishment. But that's not all. Today, I'm stepping  out of my comfort zone and raw packing beef stew into canning jars. I've never done this before. I've only hot packed this. Wish me luck.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Life as a Nonsmoker...Again!

Well, I'm officially a nonsmoker again. This is as of December 30th. As I said a couple of blogs ago if I want to make life changes, I just do it. Notice I waited until now to tell y'all.

Such is the case this time. After arguing with my health insurance provider, I decided to quit. Their new policy would increase my premium $75 each month starting January 1. I used the cancer free argument and how they should be thanking me, but they still want to charge me any how. Now let them pay the consequences of their actions. And unfortunately, so will I. So I begrudgingly quit. The additional smoking penalty put the policy way out of budget.

"So look at the cost savings," said a friend said. All I can see were the dollar signs that fighting a cancer cost me and multiplied by four. Not to mention the wear and tear on my body, and prescriptions for life for the removal of organs. I'm talking about multiple thousands of dollars, they haven't had to pay out over the past thirteen years and what they've had to pay in monthly/yearly hormone replacement and diagnostic test to see if the cancer has returned over the past forty years! Only recently, Medicare offsets the copays for these which is a huge relief to my wallet. Of course, it could be worse. I could have let the cancers kill me. Nah, I'm too much a fighter to do that.

So, I put down the cigarettes and roll the dice hoping I don't crap out. I bought a bag of sugar-free suckers to combat my mouth-lip fixation. I don't want to switch smoking for diabetes as a risk factor. That wouldn't be smart, would it?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Oh, the Aches and Pains

As some of you may have realized, I have a pretty high pain tolerance. Why is it as we age, your aches and pains grow and multiply? Why is getting out of bed during winter is twice as hard as doing the same thing in summer? Why does it twice as long to combat these aches and pains during winter? Yes, winter is once again upon us.

You'd figure once the winter solstice (Dec 21st)  has passed and the days are getting longer that you wouldn't feel so bad as much. But I don't. The weather outside is frightful. Cold, wet, rainy, sleety with snow mixed in,and windy. This is one time living down in the hollow is not advantageous. The winter will freeze any exposed body parts even here in north Georgia, and I thought it was bad in Michigan. I will say we have more moderate temperatures because we rarely experience below zero temps. Thank God!!!

Still, the cold has a way of creeping into my bones. Metal rods and screws in my back don't help the situation.  I took my temperature upon rising read 98.6 degrees, normal right? I threw off my comforter, and roll to rise up out of bed. My back screams at me while it does its snap, crackle, and pop routine.I'd slept too long in one position again. I donned my t-shirt, heavy flannel shirt, and a sweater. The overnight low was 36 degrees. Inside by my thermometer was 52 degrees with the fire in the wood stove burned out. I can feel the coolish air on the tip of my nose and my fingers. It doesn't take long for me fingers to freeze up and refuse to move. With the cold, my spasticity and arthritis kicks in hard. Neither one likes the cold.  I chug my morning pills down with our spring water knowing it'll be 20 minutes until it kicks in. Meanwhile, I'm hunched over.

I start up the wood stove, it takes a while to get the fire bricks to warm up enough to radiate heat. I take my temperature again...98 degrees. By now, after 4 splits of wood are blazing, I put the kettle on the stove. A quick trip to the wood pile on the porch, let's me know that the temperature outside is about 40-ish, but the wind blowing across the porch makes it seem much colder. I grab 6 splits of wood (about 30 lbs) into my tote and manhandle it up the two little steps into the house. The tote full of wood sits almost perfectly on my spastic, affected arm.

I make it through the door and pivot to close the door when a handle slips off my arm. CRASH! BANG! BOOM! All the logs sill out onto the floor. They scatter so bad that I cannot close the door. I take the other hadle off my arm and lay the totes flat on the floor. I hurriedly pick up the pieces of wood and then loop it back on my affected arm. Then comes the real challenge, a dead lift from the floor of 30 lbs with a back weight limit of 20 lbs. The medicine is still trying to kick in. I manage to do a hunched over, crab walk to the wood stove. Stooped over like I was, there was little difficulty loading two more pieces of wood into the fire box. Only a mild string of curses words emitted from my mouth as the hot, firebox door hit my affected arm as it closed.

The good news was I was finally able to straighten my back. I walked almost normally to the kitchen. I placed my arm under the cold water tap. I swear it gave out a sizzling sound as the water hit the now black, bubbling skin  where the door made contact. These are my winter battle scars. I have umpteen dozens of them by winter's end. Getting my forearm to the faucet is a sight better left to the imagination. Let's just say that a change of top garments is necessary after this feat. Because of the spasticity, pain accentuated spasticity, my arm drew up into my chest. But it was in the perfect position to spread the aloe vera leaf onto the burn.

The rocker soles on the bottom of my shoe almost causes a hyperextension of my knee when I walk on my affected side. It's an artificial patella which doesn't like it at all. So now my knee aches when I walk. The lateral ligaments also voice their complaints. "Okay. Okay." I sit in front of the computer.

Not five minutes go by and Nnyus, the dog, wakes up and talks to me about wanting to be fed. Now, Nnyus doesn't bark at me. A bark is yelling and she's too polite for that. She does this growling woo-wooo-woo sound repeatedly until, for my sanity, I get up and do what she wants. "Alright! I'm getting it." I'd reached my five minute tolerance of this noise. I bend down to grab their bowls. My back now that it's straightened all the kinks out of it, now protests bending.  I straighten up and carry the bowls to the end of the counter by the pantry. My back thanks me a bit too soon. I'm bending again to take the lids off the dog food bin, I pivot to fill the bowls, and straighten my back to carry the bowls to the pot of leftovers on the stove top. Their daily goodies are always our leftovers from the night before, in this case, it's beef stew. I run hot water from the top and pour it over the mixture. Nnyus likes hers soupy. Herbie not so much. I grab the bowls and bend to set them in place. "Come eat."

My back muscles yell at me, "Quit that!" To emphasize their point, they spasm hard. Now, I'm truly bent over unable to stand up straight. I hobble over to the wood stove. I'm in the perfect position to poke the fire and load some more wood into the firebox. That done, I hobble the five feet back to my chair and sit at my computer again. My back sighs with relief and relaxes. Now, I breathe a sigh of relief. The medicines are finally working full force, but with the full force working, I'm drowsy. I'm sitting not ten foot from the wood stove so I'm warm and comfortable.

Now's the time to get busy. There's angora does to blow out, chickens to feed, mulch to spread, and our daily meal to cook, but all I want to do is doze by the fire. My aches and pains have finally abated. My spasticity has other ideas. I'm jerked from my doze by a painful spasm. My hand is up under my chin with this one. I careful reposition my arm into a more comfortable 7 of 9 pain level. I place a small pillow under my elbow for support as I wait for the spasm to reduce in severity. A tear squeezes its way out of my tightly closed eye. It eventually stops so fifteen long minutes later. I put on my sling to support my arm and get busy with my day.

Nothing is impossible.